For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
On Trial in New York - Israel and the Russel Tribunal
Wall Street Journal..
09 October '12..
Those who grew up with Pink Floyd's 1979 double album "The Wall" will remember it as the perfect antidote to the crueller aspects of teenage life. Chronicling the mental breakdown of a pop star, the rock opera rages against suffocating parents, tyrannical teachers and social conformism. The story concludes with the hero hauled before a nightmarish court, where everyone in his life testifies as an adversarial witness. Before the defendant can say a word in his own defense, the judge bellows a guilty verdict: "The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There is no need for the jury to retire!"
I was reminded of this scene Saturday while attending a session in New York of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a self-appointed people's court that has met periodically since 2009 to sit in judgment of Israel. Here, too, there was no one to speak for the defendant, the world's sole Jewish state. And here, too, the verdict was never in doubt.
Another reason to be reminded of "The Wall": Roger Waters, Pink Floyd's chief lyricist, was a member of the jury. He was joined by such luminaries as the novelist Alice Walker, former Black Panther Angela Davis and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
The tribunal is modeled after a similar ad hoc court convened in 1966 by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell to investigate American war crimes in Vietnam. The original Russell Tribunal was also a predictable affair, with a jury composed of the French existentialist and ardent Soviet apologist Jean-Paul Sartre; his lifelong partner, and an equally ardent communist, Simone de Beauvoir; the Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher; and other prominent antiwar figures of the time. After hearing testimony from a handful of witnesses, the tribunal was asked to determine whether the U.S. government was "guilty of genocide against the people in Vietnam." The unanimous verdict: "Yes."
Since then, there have been Russell tribunals to address the 1973 coup in Chile and the war in Iraq. At the one on Palestine, the jury heard from, among others, the British journalist and anti-Israel activist Ben White, who spent 40 minutes calling for the "decolonization" of the Levant and denouncing "ethnic cleansing" by Israel since its founding in 1948. On the Counterpunch website in 2002, Mr. White wrote: "I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are."
After Mr. White's testimony, Mr. Waters of Pink Floyd fame spoke up. "Sitting here as we are New York City," he said, "it's hard to ignore the elephant in the room—this elephant being the unfathomable influence in the corridors of power of the Israeli and Jewish lobbies."
Catching up with Mr. Waters later, I asked why the tribunal wasn't hearing an Israeli perspective. "That's not what it's for," he said. "It is a people's tribunal and we do invite the other side to attend." (Why would the Israelis have declined such an invitation, I wondered.)
I asked Mr. Waters if he thought perhaps there ought to be a Russell Tribunal on Syria to hold the Assad regime to account for killing some 30,000 Syrian citizens? "I'm not part of the hierarchy of the Russell Tribunal," Mr. Waters said, sounding annoyed at the question. "I've been invited to take part in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine as a juror, so there's no way I can answer that question because I just do not know." He did later volunteer: "As far as Syria is concerned, I have no fence to sit on. I am against the Assad rule."
I then asked Ms. Davis whether she opposes specific Israeli policies or, like many other attendees at the tribunal, is against the existence of the Jewish state. "We are considering this new notion called sociocide," she said. "It's close to genocide. It's the breaking down of a particular society. It may not be genocide in the sense that all the people are killed or the biological-reproductive capacity of the people is assaulted, but rather the structures of society are so dismantled that it is impossible for the Palestinians to continue to exist as a people."
Ms. Walker, who earlier this year prevented an Israeli publisher from printing a Hebrew-language edition of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Color Purple," said a Jewish state just won't work. "In my view Jewish Israelis and Palestinians have to learn to live in one country, as equals," she said. "I don't think the two-country solution is a solution."
Roger Waters is accustomed to playing encores, but this meeting of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine was likely the last of its major get-togethers. And its work was done: Regarding Palestinian rights, the jurors ruled that Israel is guilty of violations that are "systematic, numerous, flagrant and, sometimes, criminal." Nice touch, that "sometimes." After all, they wanted to be fair.
Mr. Ahmari is an assistant books editor at the Journal.
A version of this article appeared October 9, 2012, on page A19 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Israel on Trial in New York.
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I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"